Teachers, it is hard to ignore the increasing volume from parents. They want more technology in the classroom.
In all of the papers and books that I have covered, I have not once encountered a study that states that more technology leads to smarter students. On the contrary – since the introduction of Internet-connected devices into the classroom, they actually deprive your student of proper development. So says neuroscience.
A recently circulated video compares “screens” to “cocaine.” This is not entirely accurate. It is the Internet aspect that provides the child with a dopamine lever. As there is no “end of the Internet,” these gadgets exploit a human seeking behavior. Our brains prize new information. Even if we find garbage, it is new!
Pencils or Tablets?
Addiction problem aside, let's circle back to child development. I have a few papers that describe what happens in our brains as we master our tools. You probably have a tool on your desk. Go ahead, pick up that pencil – don’t be shy.
You have probably mastered that pencil. A young child has not. Your brain literally perceives that pencil as an extension of your hand. There is a critical eye-hand-mind feedback loop that happens with tactile feedback. As this loop is exercised by a young child holding a pencil, complexity develops in their brain. Connections between neurons are formed and deep grooves develop along paths that are exercised.
Swiping and tapping on a tablet? Not so much. Papers that I have reviewed describe superficial development by comparison. The tactile feedback from a real object needs to be in place.
This goes for e-books vs. real books or virtual pianos vs. pressing a real piano key. Being able to flip a real page changes the learning outcome.
More technology in the classroom lowers the imagination and hinders complex development in the brain. Lower imagination leads to reduced ability to solve problems creatively. Far from solving our problems, recently developed technology limits our innate abilities.
I believe that parents and teachers have caught onto this, even if they cannot quite put it into words. Perhaps you decided that “too much screen time” is not a good thing for your child.
Programming is Art
I have just described a scenario where technology in the classroom is not a good thing, and yet Shift Sight is developing technology for learning.
There is a sharp difference here. Jade is being designed with children and learning in mind. Smartphones and tablets were not. They are addictive media consumption devices.
The current experience that young children get learning programming in the classroom can be compared to learning art via paint-by-number worksheets. But it is not the child's fault. It is not the teacher's fault. It is not the curriculum either. It is the device.
I believe that programming is art. I did not select the “paint-by-number worksheet” reference on accident. Jade, in this story, is the paintbrush – a tool that encourages and demands mastery.
Current classroom technology precludes mastery. Because of this, we are currently teaching programming but failing to develop a child into a programmer. This is a subtle but very important difference.
Programmers have developed the ability to solve problems creatively. It is the difference between being a poet and memorizing a dictionary. It is free expression vs. paint-by-number.
Creative problem solving, developed through Jade, is required to meet the challenges ahead. We know that business as usual is not sustainable. A sustainable future needs children that can connect unrelated ideas with a bright imagination. Jade is being designed for this purpose.
We have been complacent to sit back and believe that current classrooms are teaching our children a critical skill (programming) that will make them valuable in the future workplace. Our children are learning the wrong lesson; it is only because the right device has been missing from the picture.
Jade was needed a decade ago.
Ty is a Founder of Shift Sight, LLC.